Saturday, 12 June 2010

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

Birds and Orchids.

Today was a botanising day with Juan Perez-Contreras and his wife Beatriz in Sierra Nevada. On the way up I called at a site where I had in the past seen a Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) and was very surprised to find two birds there. I watched these birds for a while, which were quite a long way off, I rang Juan to tell him of my find and to try and arrange to meet him a bit earlier. Just as we finished the call a third bird flew in and the other two came much closer, from this range it was quite obvious that two of the birds were immature. After a few minutes watching them my attention was drawn away north to what was a fourth bird, the second adult of the family. Just then Juan rang me back to change meeting point and I gave him the info that there were two immature birds and two adults at the site.
I am not sure of the breeding status of this species in the Province of Granada; I know that it has been seen in the summer in the past and that it is a fairly regular wintering bird.
On the 13th Juan confirmed my sighting and found that there were in fact at least three immature birds.

I meet up with Juan and Beatriz and we started the drive up the mountain via the old northern road. On the way we viewed a nest site for Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos); a huge nest of branches rather than twigs could be seen in a hollow on a steep cliff face. Once we were in the woods we stopped at a site for the rare Epipactis fageticola, the plants were still some way off flowering and also down in number. Last year I found 18 spikes of this rare but uninspiring plant, this time we only managed 10. Further on the dead spikes of both Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and Barton’s Orchid (Dactylorhiza insularis) under the Sweet Chestnuts, along with 20+ spikes of the uncommon Epipactis microphylla in varying stages of flower. Most were still in bud but some of the less shaded plants on the road side had lower blooms open. Spanish Foxglove (Digitalis obscura), Onosma tricerosperma subsp. granatensis, Putoria calabrica, Daphne gnidium and Prunella laciniata were all seen in the area.
Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) were all heard or seen.
We then moved over to El Porche a site just off the main road up the mountain where I showed Juan the site I had found a couple of years ago for Orchis cazorlensis, the plants would have been over with but what was sad is that they had been chewed off by animals preventing any seed being set. The next site was a spot that Juan and Beatriz had found, some great looking sloping grassy meadows; we soon started to find many plants of Bug / Fragrant Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora). The plants were highly variable in colour, ranging from quite deep Red / Purple to White and Green. Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) were the only new birds seen. Several butterflies were also flying in the meadows including Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathsheba), Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).
The next stop was lunch at the near by restaurant and then back to the site for the Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) but on this visit there were no Kites at all. We did see several Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor).
Photographs from the top: Black-winged Kites (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) immature upper left and adult lower right, Spanish Foxglove (Digitalis obscura), Prunella laciniata, 2x Bug / Fragrant Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora), Grayling (Hipparchia semele) and site at El Porche.

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